Women who take a long time to fall asleep are more likely to have high blood pressure or develop heart disease, a study has revealed.
Sleep problems like insomnia, poor quality sleep or finding it difficult to doze off may all increase the risk of heart problems.
And the same dangerous effects are still seen even if women manage to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep in spite of disturbances, scientists say.
Experts say women have more issues with their sleep than men do – insomnia is thought to be twice as common in women – and it also has worse effects on their health.
A study by Columbia University in New York tested the link between blood pressure and sleep in over 300 women.
The researchers say the results are ‘concerning’ and suggest more attention should be paid to women’s sleep patterns when doctors look at patients’ heart health.
Women who have trouble with their sleep are more likely to have high blood pressure of inflammation which could lead to heart disease, even if they get the recommended amount
More than a third of adults do not get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it is vital for our health.
The body repairs itself and regenerates while we sleep, and getting enough shut-eye is important for maintaining good physical and mental health.
However, there are various reasons why people have trouble sleeping and many stem from modern lifestyles – working long hours, stress, drink and drugs, or having a bedroom which is too light or noisy, for example.
Difficulty sleeping significantly raises women’s blood pressure
The study found disturbances like difficulty falling asleep, not sleeping well, or insomnia significantly raise women’s blood pressure.
WHAT IS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many won’t realise it.
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:
- Heart disease
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Aortic aneurysms
- Kidney disease
- Vascular dementia
And 50 per cent of women who took part in the study had ‘poor quality sleep’.
High blood pressure is common, affection around a quarter of adults, but left untreated it can cause strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.
Fewer hours sleeping also raised the risk of women developing inflammation in their blood vessels, which can lead to potentially fatal heart disease.
‘Sleep problems could initiate heart disease risk’
The researchers were concerned that they discovered women suffer more with sleep problems than men do.
Dr Brooke Aggarwal said: ‘It’s concerning, since studies have shown that sleep deprivation and milder sleep problems may have a disproportionate effect on cardiovascular health in women.
‘Our findings suggest that mild sleep problems could possibly initiate the [blood vessel] inflammation that’s a significant contributor to cardiovascular disease.
‘Results of an ongoing clinical trial may confirm these results. In the meantime, it may be prudent to screen women for milder sleep disturbances in an effort to help prevent cardiovascular disease.’
How the research was carried out
The study measured the blood pressure and examined sleep habits of 323 healthy women
Researchers considered poor quality sleep, taking longer to fall asleep, and insomnia to be ‘mild’ sleep disturbances.
Severe disturbances included more serious conditions like sleep apnoea, but the milder issues are three times as common.
The scientists found women who suffered the mild disturbances had significantly higher blood pressure than those without trouble sleeping.
They also saw women who did not sleep as well had more inflammation in their blood vessels.